Welcoming your first baby into the world is both exhilarating and terrifying.
Not only do you have to keep this tiny human alive, but you also have to provide for its every need. Sometimes, parents frantically spend money to make life easier on their child and themselves.
The baby care industry is happy to accommodate this desire with a wide selection of products. But if you’re struggling to juggle the costs of having a baby and student loans (or other financial obligations), it’s crucial to know what you and your baby can live without.
Here are seven things every new parent should avoid buying.
Marlon Gutierrez, a colleague, and his wife bought a $200 bassinet for their daughter. It turned out to be a waste, Gutierrez said, mainly because they did co-sleeping. Once that phase was over, the couple found a Pack ‘n Play for $63 that did the job.
Even if your child sleeps well in a bassinet, pediatricians recommend switching your baby to a crib after three to six months. So, you’re likely better off starting your baby out in a crib or in a Pack ‘n Play anyway. You can use both items long after your baby outgrows the bassinet.
2. Baby wipe warmer
Waking up in the middle of the night to change your baby’s diaper isn’t fun for anyone involved. Accustomed to the warmth of the womb, your son or daughter might loudly protest against your use of a cold baby wipe.
To fix the problem, some companies offer a baby wipe warmer, which typically costs between $20 and $40. Not only is it an unnecessary expense, but it also can cost you more money in the long run by drying out wipes if you don’t use it regularly enough.
Instead, hold the wipe in both your hands for a few seconds before using it. It might not get warm and toasty, but your baby won’t get a shock of cold either.
3. Shopping cart cover
Once your infant is old enough to sit in the front of the shopping cart, you might suddenly realize you have no idea who used that cart before you and where their hands have been.
Germs help your baby develop a healthy immune system. But shopping carts have proved to be petri dishes for nefarious bacteria such as E. coli.
Shopping cart covers typically go for $20 to $40, but there’s a much cheaper option available. In fact, most stores offer it for free — an antibacterial wipe. A quick swipe over the front of the shopping cart should kill most germs and keep you focused on what your child is touching.
4. Fancy crib bedding
When Frankie Rendon, a colleague, welcomed his daughter into the world, he and his wife bought a few bedding sets for the newborn’s crib. “We thought it was a good idea to change her bedroom theme every couple of months,” Rendon said.
But most of the sets, which cost $100 to $200 apiece, remain in the closet. Rendon and his wife don’t have the time or energy to change the bedding often. And the baby, who is now four months old, has yet to sleep in her crib, according to Rendon.
Another thing to note is the fact that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends you avoid soft bedding entirely when your child is young to reduce the risk of sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS).
5. Shoes (before your baby can walk)
For some parents, it’s important that their child has a keen fashion sense. But as comedian Jim Gaffigan wrote, giving a baby shoes when they can’t walk is “like giving a blind person a microscope.”
What’s more, infant shoes can be wildly expensive, despite the small amount of material and short shelf life. Some manufacturers charge $50 or more for a pair of baby shoes.
If you’re concerned about your child’s feet getting cold during the winter, opt for inexpensive booties or thick socks and a blanket instead.
6. Changing table
You spend a lot of time changing diapers when your baby is in the newborn and infant stages. If you have back problems like me, changing tables make the process easier.
Some changing tables double as a small dresser or storage unit, but even basic ones can cost $50 or more. My wife and I just bought a cheap changing pad for $10 and set it on top of our son’s full dresser.
Alternatively, you can skip the table and pad altogether and change your baby’s diaper on the floor, bed, or couch.
7. Baby food (that you can puree yourself)
Once your infant starts eating solids, bottled baby food offers a convenient way to give your child a wide variety of flavors. But that convenience comes at a cost — usually $1 or more per jar — and it adds up over time.
Instead, make your own purees by cooking fruits and vegetables and throwing them in the blender. Your baby won’t know the difference, but your wallet will.
Spend wisely when it comes to your baby
As you prepare for the costs that come with a child, consider how they impact your financial well-being.
For items you plan to buy, check Craigslist and other marketplaces to see if you can find a great alternative for cheap. Although it’s easy to justify spending a lot on baby products because you want the best for your child, used products are often just as good as new ones — and they cost a lost less to boot.
This article was written by Ben Luthi, a staff writer for Student Loan Hero.